Have you ever used your smartphone to hail a taxi? Order in lunch? Or to find the help you need, whether from a cleaner or a childminder? If you have, then like millions of people, you probably did so via digital platforms. Every day people are connecting online, whether to use or provide myriad services.

Step into the light: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría (left) and Prime Minister Peter Pelligrini of the Slovak Republic, in a curtain-raiser video focusing  on the digital transformation to launch OECD Week 2019 with this. Watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFsXYQY6ebo

Artificial intelligence is still in its early days and policymakers are still finding their feet. To what extent can they, and should they, encourage this powerful new technology, and how can they address any risks? The OECD Principles on AI can help. They promote artificial intelligence (AI) that is innovative and trustworthy and that respects human rights and democratic values.

As the world becomes more digital, typical social values are applied to new contexts. This can lead to complications. For example, how can one ensure fairness within the framework of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems? The advantages of AI are clear: AI increases productivity and innovation, and makes data and predictions more accurate and less expensive. AI technologies are already in use in fields from medicine to finance. However, as AI spreads, it runs the risk of engraining gender and racial biases into its actions and results.

Seventy years ago, scientist Alan Turing philosophically asked whether machines could think. Coined in 1956, the terms artificial intelligence and AI are now everywhere. Since 2011, breakthroughs in “machine learning”–an AI subset that uses a statistical approach–has dramatically improved the ability of machines to make predictions. A machine learning technique called “neural networks”, as well as large datasets and computing power, are fueling AI’s rapid expansion.

Start-up event, Helsinki, Finland ©Jmohammad-saifullah

Most people spend their evenings kicking back with a book or whatever’s on Netflix. In Finland, they’re teaching themselves artificial intelligence (AI). In the summer of 2017, computer scientist Teemu Roos heard that the government was looking for ways to teach ordinary people the basics of artificial intelligence. It would be a continuing education initiative­—not necessarily to train people to become machine-learning engineers, but to understand how neural networks work and grasp how AI is changing the way we do things. 

©astudio/Shutterstock

Digitalisation, climate change and urbanisation are changing our lives and forcing us to find new ways to move people and goods. We must cut down on carbon emissions, and make traffic safer and more efficient than before. Digital tools will help us with this. After all, small, wallet-sized devices now enable near-instant data transfer and internet connections all over the world. Mobile phone technology provides us with services we could not even have dreamt of a few years ago.

OECD

The digital transformation is not new, but the pace of change has quickened, with our hyperconnected societies generating huge volumes of data of all kinds.

Two decades ago the OECD held its first international ministerial meeting on the digital economy. A lot has changed since then, but some old challenges persist while new ones have emerged. Food for thought as we embark on the next 20 years and prepare for the transformative effects of the digital economy.

At age 15, 5% of boys in OECD countries want to work in information technology. And girls? 0.5%. With society digitalising fast and the current gender gap in science/technology/engineering/maths (STEM) widening, the future still looks to be a “man’s, man’s, man’s world”. But Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, is betting against James Brown. She urges girls to set their ambitions high and calls on policymakers to break down the policy barriers that are holding women back.

©Shutterstock

Back in the 1960s, when my dad wanted to make an international call for work, he had to order it 24 hours in advance. Today, he uses WhatsApp to make toll-free calls from anywhere, anytime, in just a couple of clicks.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sometimes thought of as something esoteric, a shiny idea that may become real at some distant point in the future. But the reality is that although AI is developing globally at different rates, AI is already being integrated rapidly into the internal workings of governments, business, civil society, and more.

©Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP

Smart communications technology has enabled people to hire themselves out as independently contracting workers in everything from taxi drives to video producers and gardeners. But what is the status of these workers, and what are the challenges of the so-called gig economy?

Conversations on corruption: Konilo, one of Greece’s most popular vloggers (right), interviewing young Athenians on Ermou Street. ©Rights reserved

Some young people are walking down a busy street. A man with a video camera stops them and asks some questions about what they like best about their country. They say they like the food, the beach, and a few other things. Then the man asks what they don’t like about their country. The conversation soon turns to corruption. Want to get your driving licence? “Bribing’s the only way to pass the test.” Want to get your student papers without having to wait forever? “Throw in an extra €10.”

Digital innovations are everywhere, in our pockets, cars and homes. However, while digital technologies seem to offer great potential to enhance firm productivity, productivity growth has slowed sharply in most OECD countries over the past two decades. Read more on the OECD Ecoscope blog.

Everybody agrees that tech giants and all other businesses should pay their fair share of taxes where they create value. But is a digital tax the way to go? OECD tax chief Pascal Saint-Amans says no. The OECD has secured an agreement among 127 countries and jurisdictions to spearhead talks on changing the rules of the taxation game: shifting more taxing rights to market jurisdictions where goods and services—digital or not—are being consumed…away from the countries where multinational companies are headquartered. What’s at stake? Nothing short of changing fundamental tax rules to address the 21st century’s globalised and digitalising economy.

Engineers prepare to launch a medical drone, Rwanda 2018 ©Kristin Palitza/DPA/AFP

Accelerating the knowledge-led development of Africa through science driven policy and investments is important for boosting long-term growth and well-being.

Not so private: Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg in the public lens before a US Senate hearing in April 2018. ©Leah Millis/Reuters

“We care about your data privacy and security. With this in mind, we’re updating our privacy policy by 25 May 2018 in compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Click to learn more.”

©David Rooney

In a small town just outside Montreal, Jake [not his real name] struggles with drug addiction. His dependence on numerous substances has brought him in and out of hospital and rehabilitation programmes many times. What is striking about Jake’s addiction is how he acquires the drugs: not from a neighbourhood drug dealer, but through the post and courier companies.  “It’s remarkably easy business,” he says. “Just like buying common, everyday items on the surface–as opposed to dark–web. Only there are a few extra steps. After you provide your false personal and delivery information and whatever sum of money is agreed upon, your package arrives at the designated address disguised as something else in order to get through the postal service.” Read the full article here.

“Every crowd has a silver lining,” said P.T. Barnum, America’s “greatest showman”. For businesses, Barnum’s play on words is especially true: crowds are becoming something of a motherlode of funding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With bank lending declining, smaller businesses are looking for alternative ways of financing. Thanks to the world wide web, they can now solicit funds not just from banks and professional investors, but from virtually anyone with internet access. This approach can take different forms. Besides crowdfunding (where many individual contributions–usually sourced online–make up the funding), examples include online invoice financing (where SMEs, for instance, can borrow online against unpaid invoices) and peer-to-peer lending activities (online services that match lenders with SME borrowers). Together, these funding opportunities constitute the online alternative finance market. Read the full article here.

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The diffusion of internet-based cloud computing among private companies has picked up over recent years, with higher uptake within large firms compared to small businesses. 

While the digital world is a driver of innovation and productivity, it raises the issue of digital security, since online vulnerability can lead to financial, privacy and reputational damages. 

©Serprix

Recent years have seen a rapid rise in digital transactions, notably through web-based “sharing economy” platforms that have bridged, and indeed blurred, the gap between consumers and producers. But this upsurge has also created new challenges for measuring GDP, and, against a backdrop of slowing rates of productivity growth, has led some to question whether the slowdown reflects these new transactions.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q2 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 1.6% September 2019 annual
Trade: -1.9% exp, -0.9% imp, Q2 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% September 2019
Last update: 18 November 2019

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